So, this one is going to get a bit personal, so bare with me.
I am very lucky to live in the same town as Ann VanderMeer. She lit a torch with her lit zine, Silver Web, that illuminated experimental and weird writing here in Tallahassee (and everywhere) that counteracted the academic literary presence that looms from the local universities. For years, she was a mystery to me. I’d see issues of Silver Web on the racks of my favorite used bookstore Paperback Rack (R.I.P.) and marvel that this was all happening in my proverbial backyard…way out in the dark beyond. Who was this Ann Kennedy? What was she like?
Tallahassee being Tallahassee, I eventually got to meet Ann, now VanderMeer, and better yet, got to learn and work with her when I started collaborating with her husband Jeff on The Steampunk Bible. Even though her torch had exploded into the sun-like body of work with her editorship at Weird Tales, and seminal anthologies The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, The Time Traveler’s Almanac, and Sisters of the Revolution: A Feminist Speculative Fiction Anthology, Ann took the time to talk to me like a neighbor and a friend who just happened to be into the same bizarre stuff. She talked to me like a peer and made me feel like a real writer.
I learned a lot from her during that time, and felt bolstered to pursue my fiction and be more public with it. Thanks to the encouragement of both she and Jeff, I was honored to have my first professional sale with them for “Dr. Lambshead’s Dark Room,” which appeared in their Dr. Lambshead’s Cabinet of Curiosities. (Jeff is taking his Lambshead history into the YA world with a newly sold trilogy The Adventures of Jonathan Lambshead).
So…perhaps this is way more personal than a professional thing about a book should be…but I can’t help it. When I met Ann, not only did I gain a mentor, but a friend, someone who embodies everything I ever wanted in a cool, older sister. That is why I am blabbering on because it meant the world to me that she approved of this work, because she knows what is off these pages as much as on them.
Thank you, Ann!
SPEAKING OF BACKYARD: Tonight in Tallahassee, Jeff will be appearing at an event from Midtown Reader and The Tallahassee Democrat celebrating his new, tour de force, Borne. Ann will be joining him to interview him and help present the book. It should be a great night, and if you are in the area, definitely check it out.
Here’s info about the event, if you are in the area: Jeff VanderMeer-Borne!